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The Long, Dark Night

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I have had a difficult time writing for the blog lately.  Admittedly, we have had a long, hard winter and I felt burned out.  What is there to say when you cannot say anything positive?  I did not even realize that I was feeling pretty down until about a month ago.  We were offered a crazy opportunity to go out West to a 30,000 acre ranch  and manage the property.  In some ways, it felt like a dream come true, but the timing was terrible.  We have spent almost three years building this place.  To abandon it now seemed almost criminal.  What this opportunity did, though, was start the process of unthawing our hearts from the long winter and made us really reflect on what it is we are doing here, why we came here, and what we want moving forward.  It has been hard to see any of that because we have gotten so caught up in the details of finishing this place that we got a little bit lost.  When we moved here, it felt very intentional.  It felt like God was leading us here for something really amazing.  We felt driven.  Over  the last three years, we have really felt like we were lost in the wilderness, so to speak.  We felt like God was really silent, which made all of our struggle seem even more challenging.  In the last few weeks, in addition to really finding our center again, we have also been renewing our resolve to live ‘the good life’ as described by Scott and Helen Nearing.  That is how all of this started.  My husband and read their book years ago, and shared it with me when we were still in Alaska.  We became convinced that a better life consisted of a life that involved growing our own food, spending more time outdoors than in, and raising our family around God.  We wanted to utilize technology, but not be slaves to it.

As we begin to unthaw, and the dawn begins to break, we have begun to have hope and purpose again.  I have been reflecting on our journey here, and everywhere I look, I see the progression of our house, and feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Tomorrow we will finish installing the hot water heater and washing machine.  The flooring is on order.  The last two doors are soon to be installed.  We are beginning to wrap up Phase One of Project Homestead.

You have realized by now, I am sure, that I like to reflect.  It helps me to see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  I have been reflecting as we prepare to install the washing machine, and thinking about how our lives and comforts have progressed.  I find it interesting that it is now that we are becoming burned out, instead of at any of the other points in the last three years when we have been so much less comfortable.  When we started here, in July of 2014, we were bathing with a solar shower, washing clothes in a bucket, cooking on a camp stove, and doing dishes in a portable camp sink.  We upgraded slowly, VERY slowly.  One year later, we were living in a travel trailer (relative luxury), going to the laundromat, and eating, cooking, and cleaning in the camper.  It took  one-and-a-half years to get indoor plumbing and electricity.  It took two years to get a proper kitchen.  Now, after three years, I am done with the laundromat, done with boiling water on the stove for the kids’ bathwater.

There is almost no evidence left of the way we lived, and what we suffered through to be here now.  The memories linger, however; and make me thankful- every time I take a shower, every time I make a meal, every time I grab something out of the fridge, every time I  sit and watch a movie.  I am thankful for what God has given us, and that he has made us work for every little bit of it in order to give us REAL perspective.  It is so easy to be complacent and just plod along in life – especially now with cellphones, Internet, and technology all around us.  As we come to an end of what has been, for us, a long, cold dark night, I look forward to the coming dawn and all that God has in store for us!

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Happy Autumn

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Typically this time of year finds me feeling nostalgic as I look back on the Summer/Spring and all of the fun that I had.  I begin to feel some mixture of sadness and resignation at the coming of Fall and the long, cold Winter.  This year is proving to be very different.  The days are already feeling colder, and the leaves are beginning to turn.  I find myself looking forward to the Winter and the opportunity to snuggle up on the couch with a good book, or spend more time playing games and doing projects with the kids.  I am absolutely amazed by all that we have accomplished since Spring, but  I am also completely exhausted and overwhelmed.

I look back at what we have done and it seems unreal, but when I look at how far we still have to go, it seems just as overwhelming.  I never imagined it would take this long or be so difficult.  We installed our bathroom vanity at the end of March, and here is all that we have accomplished since….

We started off the Spring with just the utility sink and a working toilet and shower.  Dave spent March getting the bathroom vanity and sink installed, while working part-time and taking care of the kids when I went back to work after the new baby.  We spent the last part of Spring and early Summer doing drywall.  We hung the last of the drywall and Dave taped and mudded while I took care of the kids.  When he was done, I would do the painting on naps and after bedtime.  The tongue and groove went up in July, and the kitchen cabinets and sink were installed in September.  We also prepped a new garden bed and planted a full garden.  We have harvested and stored cucumbers (into pickles), zucchini relish, carrots, green beans, squash, and tomatoes.  I have yet to put away homemade ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa verde, tomato salsa, corn, and herbs.  We also stopped working on the house long enough to split 3 cords of wood (only half of what we need), build an 8×16 shed, and start on a 12×16 shop for Dave.  We still have to finish the shop, add some extra stove pipe to the chimney, install the range hood and hook up the gas lines to the oven/range.  Then we will finally be ready for winter.

Last winter I was facing this moment without running water or electricity.  We have come so far!  We are so exhausted and I will shamelessly admit that I am just ready for the snow.  I am ready to be hunkered down in the house with nothing better to do.  We can celebrate birthdays, enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and perhaps find a hobby that doesn’t involve our house.  There is still much to do, and it can wait until Spring, when the snow starts to melt and we begin to feel the yearning of finishing things unfinished.  For now, though, I long for the days when we can make homemade tapioca pudding, start homeschooling our Kindergartner, and enjoy a book by the warmth of the woodstove.

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

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The sink

This sink and I have a very love/hate relationship.  This sink was one of our first purchases at Menard’s shortly after we moved here.  We set it up  in the kitchen tent when we were camping in the field two years ago.  I cannot quite remember, but I think the kids may have had a bath or two in that sink.  We had a blue water jug above it and I did so many dishes in that sink, with a bucket underneath for the gray water!  I got used to it after awhile, but that bucket overflowed a few times before I got the hang of it.

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The Kitchen Tent

At the end of our three month camping adventure, the sink went with us into the house.  We set it up with the bucket below and the water above.  For over a year we washed dishes that way.  We still did not have officially running water when I came home with our new baby last December,

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The first winter

I carried that gray water bucket out in the snow, the wind, the rain, when pregnant, postpartum, tired, sick, and overwhelmed.  I stood at that sink so many times washing dishes, feeling bitter, feeling overwhelmed, feeling so, so tired.  Each time we upgraded to a slightly better kitchen, the sink stayed on, alongside the Coleman camp stove.  I began to forget what it was like to live comfortably.

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The Upgrade

This was my ‘new’ kitchen shortly after my daughter was born this past winter.  I was so excited to have a ‘real’ countertop!  THe sink and stove had become a part of my new normal.  It never occured to me that most people would think we were nuts if they really knew how we lived, how we cooked, how we cleaned, how we raised our children.  We had an oil lamp in the evenings, an eventually got a rudimentary electric lamp that we plugged in to extension cords running across the kitchen floor.

This past week it happened. The sink was disconnected and moved out to the lawn.  Every time I walk outside, I take a bit of satisfaction in seeing it there, but it is some weird bittersweet feeling.  I cannot begin to describe the joy that I feel in seeing my new sink in the house.  I somehow feel like I am cheating, though, that life should not be this ‘easy’.

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The imposter

It feels as though an imposter has come into the house.  What is this thing that makes my life so much easier, so much more convenient?  What do I do with all the time that I have saved?  I walk by the sink outside again and again and admit that I feel a little bit of nostalgia for what it represents.   Do not mistake me, I am glad to see it go, but I feel like I am saying goodbye to an old friend.

Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

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As is always the case on our homestead there is never an idle moment. If it is not working on building and finishing the house, doing driveway improvements, or any of the other homestead chores, I …

Source: Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

Blinded by Your Presence

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I had this huge epiphany last night when I should have been sleeping. Our newest child has been putting us through the ringer at night. She is 8 months old and has been waking up every hour or two since the day that she arrived in our arms. Due to the space restrictions while building our home, her portable crib was set up in our room, right next to our bed. We felt that this was necessary due to her frequent waking, so that she did not wake the boys. As a result, we have been severely sleep deprived for months, and everything else has been much more difficult a a result of our general fatigue. Two nights ago, we made the decision to set the portable crib up downstairs and put her down there so that we could attempt to train her to soothe herself back to sleep at night without needing our assistance. The first night she nursed at 10:30pm and did not wake up again until 7:30am. I, on the other hand, woke three or four times to check on her and make sure that she was still breathing! The second night, she woke up at 3:30am and then slept until 9:00am when the rest of us came down for breakfast. It was at this 3:30am moment when I realized that my tiny little daughter has much to teach all of us about presence. In our presence, she could not sleep.

As I was walking back upstairs to bed, I was struck by this hilarious irony. How many times in this process have we been blinded or frozen by presence? Because we are immersed in this madness of building a house, we cannot see the joy in what is all around us. Because we are in the presence of our children 24 hours a day, we have difficulty enjoying them and appreciating them the way we might if we had some absence from them. And just as true as presence, is absence. Because we have felt God’s absence in our lives, we have doubted, also, his presence.

My little Sophie taught me so much in these two nights. She has taught me that just because we want something does not mean that we need it. Just because we feel something, it does not always mean that it is in our best interest. Just because something seems good or helpful, or loving, does not mean that it is what we need. Also on the flip side, just because something is absent, does not mean that it is not present. I am always present for my little girl, but being absent has proven to be better for both of us. Perhaps this is the way with God. Not to say that his absence is better, but to say that if we feel his absence, he is still always present. I pray, as I go to sleep tonight, that my children will always feel my presence even when I am absent. That my children will always feel God. That my husband and I will never doubt God’s presence in our lives even in what feels like absence. That we will be able to look back on this time and see beauty, and growth, and success, even in times that feel ugly, and full of struggle, and pain. I thank God for using this tiny moment to teach me something that feels huge. Presence and absence bringing us to the same truth.

Two Years Later… Almost Home?

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Here it is, two years later.  It feels surreal that we even came here and lived in a tent! It has not gone as fast as we had hoped, and many things have changed in our realization of our dream, but in the past two years, we have gone from a tent to a travel trailer, and now, almost, to a home.  We are on the ‘home’ stretch, if you will, and this, in many ways, feels the hardest yet.  We have almost completed all of the drywall work, only a bit more mudding and sanding to go.  We have 80% of the walls painted.  Tomorrow we will begin preparing the tongue and groove to go up on the ceiling downstairs.  After that, we can finish the electrical work to have full power and lights downstairs.  The kitchen cabinets are on order and the cabinet maker is starting them now.  My son keeps saying that he remembers when things were not very nice, when things were not finished and that now, finally, it is beginning to look like a ‘pretty nice house’.  To me, it feels like there is still so far to go, and I know that my husband still feels extremely overwhelmed when he looks around at all of the projects yet to come.  The truth, though, is that we have come so far……

Tonight I spent a bit of time trying to get things set up for our last round of ‘roughing it’ before we are finished.  I want things to be more normal for the kids.  I want things to be more normal for all of us!  So I have spent the last few days cleaning and sorting and painting and moving.  When I look at the photos, I still see unfinished, but hopefully you can look at them and see progress!

I feel tired, but I also feel hopeful.  We have gone through so many emotions in the last two years and I cannot even begin to describe the many ways that our hopes and dreams have changed.  We are glad to be here and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to do such an amazing thing.  We still yearn for the spiritual growth and fellowship that we left behind, and we keep wondering what exactly God has in store for us.  We cannot help but wonder what exactly he brought us here to do.

I find myself almost anxious for winter.  This summer has been one project after another after another, and when winter comes, we will settle in and be left with just the finishing touches.  This is the most exhausting, emotionally trying, difficult thing we have ever done, and I am just thankful that we are still together as a family to talk about it!  It is my deepest hope that this next year, the third year, will bring us closure on this chapter in our lives, closure on the building of this house, and that we will begin to grow the farm, grow our spirits, and grow closer again to God as we have the time and energy to again focus inward and upward.

The Grain Bin

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In typical Dave and Megan fashion, we decided on a bit of a whim to drive 3 hours with the kids to go check out a grain bin on Craigslist. The price was right and it seemed like a good cheap and fast way to get some storage space until we could build a shop.

The reality of doing this with three little kids was a bit overwhelming. We drove up in the evening, spent the night in a hotel, and got up early the next day to meet a friend for the ‘take down’.

 

 

After a dozen phone calls we managed to find someone with grain bin jacks. We picked them up and the boys began the arduous task of dismantling the bin one layer at a time.  I hit the road for the three hour car trip to pick up the trailer. When I came back, things seemed to be moving along!

It took them eight hours to get it down. We finally got home that night at midnight. Tired, dirty, and hoping this was a good idea, we fell into bed.  This project would be so much easier if we just had the ability to build what we needed.  Now we have to pour a slab, put this crazy thing back together, sprayfoam it, and then finally be able to use it for storage.  We certainly do not need another project, but we do need storage and we do need to turn our house into a home without the living room being full of tools.   To quote the five year old when he came downstairs one morning,  “This place is a mess. It looks like a garage in here!”.  Ah, the infinite wisdom and lack of filter…..

Another day in the crazy life at Simbow Farm….

 

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